"Shame is a soul eating emotion."
I can certainly agree with that. I've been thinking alot about shame lately. What it is and how to deal with it.
Google it and you'll get alot of pop psychology websites with various definitions. The one I've settled on is:
"While guilt is a painful feeling of regret and responsibility for one's actions, shame is a painful feeling about oneself as a person."
Thats it. Shame is a negative feeling about ME
. Stupid, worthless, inferior, damaged, stained, ugly, failure, incompetant, pervert, pig, weak, unimportant, meaningless, ME
. Shame is what defines many of us, it tells us who we are. WHY?!?
I made a list of experiences which I believe instilled shame in me. Not to assign blame or wallow in self-pity, but to try to take a few baby steps toward freedom from shame.
- My alcoholic parents emotionally abandoned me. Satisfying their disease was more important than I was. I received the unspoken message "You're not worth our time".
- I worked hard to succeed. Got good grades. Went to college and graduate school on scholarships. Graduated with high honors. Began a successful career. Always hoping to be recognized for it. There was only silence. My parents did not come to my high school, or college graduations. I received the unspoken message: "Whatever you do, you will always be worthless".
- I married, had children, had at least outwardly, both personal and professional success. Never a positive word about it. My parents didn't come to my wedding, and never met most of their grandchildren. I received the unspoken message "You've always been a disappointment to us, and always will be. You'll always be a loser".
- When I was 13, I was groomed and manipulated by a man in my neighborhood into trading sex for alcohol and drugs. I received the unspoken message "This is all you're good for, a dirty little whore".
- I spent the rest of my teens and adulthood in a secret life of anonymous sex, drugs and alcohol. Always trying to numb the pain, and always keeping it all a secret from the world while showing a completely different personna. I received the unspoken message "You would not be successful, loved, or respected if anyone knew what you are really like. You'll never be anything but a dirty drunk manslut".
There's more on my list but I'm sure thats enough for this post. So what can we do about this? How can we silence those voices? Redefine ourselves? Change our beliefs about who we are at our core? I'm still looking for the answers. Please reply if you've found what works for you.
"But now old friends are acting strange,
they shake their heads, they say I've changed.
Something's lost but something's gained in living every day
....it's life's illusions I recall, I really don't know life at all. "Joni Mitchell